Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Waiting and Wondering

It’s difficult to find the right words to describe how I feel right now. The waiting, the wondering and doubt swirl around in my mind. Emotions, many contrary to one another, take turns vying for my attention. This myriad of emotions has lain to waste any clear thoughts or ability to concentrate. The result of all of this is tension; immeasurable tension.

The “economic crisis” as so many have coined, is taking an entirely different toll on our community of expatriate workers and families. Our little community of 300,000 (keep in mind this is a city of 22 million) is being sent home in droves. What was once a small trickle of foreigners in and out of Shanghai, has by all appearances, become a mass exodus back to home countries.

Many people have returned to uncertainty in their home countries, while others have chosen the uncertainty of Shanghai. Those who remain here pare down and try to live a more “local” lifestyle.

Now allow me to be frank here. Most of us in this community of expatriates live lives of blissful excess. Many of us enjoy lifestyles far beyond those we lived in our home countries. We live it up, and we do so because we have been given the opportunity from a few different angles. One is from the desire to find comfort in an incredibly uncomfortable place. Pair that desire with many comforts found at a fraction of the cost and... voila! The other comes from the system we were moved into.

The system we were moved into was born, in part, out of necessity. Ten years ago, Shanghai was nowhere near the city it is today. There was an excellent reason, when moving foreigners here, that they would be surrounded by people who could help them communicate, as well as be provided with all of the creature comforts one could afford. The times have changed a bit though. And while newcomers still need much of the assistance translators and a point person for daily dealings can provide, those who have been here for a while could arguably make it on their own.

While jobs back home are being cut on a worrying scale, the expatriate community feels like a group of sitting ducks. Many are thinking of what they will do in a “worst case scenario”, and hopefully most of us are rethinking our lifestyles and the cost of all of this “expat living”.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Plan B

I'm not sure where to begin. The weather is always a notable subject here in Shanghai, so perhaps I will start there. For the first day in a week, the sun is shining down on the city, and I must say it is a very welcomed sight.

Phil is out this morning and I will join him in a few hours with my camera to wander the city and see what photographic delights can be captured. For now I thought I would catch up on some blogging and writing.

Life has been very busy for Phil and me. It seems like we returned home from the States months ago, but we have only been back for two weeks. I started full time mandarin classes two weeks ago. It is great and mind numbing all at the same time. My Chinese is improving and my English is worsening; which leaves me in a state of speaking poorly in both languages. I've never enjoyed walking around in such a mental stupor, but I know this is the initial fruit of such labor.

On another note, the economic state of affairs has the expat community in a constant state of tension- with each family and individual wondering if they will have a job tomorrow. Many people we know and call friends have been sent home. Phil and I are no different from anyone else. We know very well that what is here today may be gone tomorrow. We are just trying to enjoy every day and have a “plan B” in the event that we need one.

So for now, I should get out and wander about...taking in all that the city has to offer.


Friday, February 13, 2009

Valentine's Day

The grey fog of winter has once again rested itself upon the city. It turns out that the beautiful spring-like weather we had been experiencing was a mere tease. Days like these make Phil and I want to curl up, order take-out, and watch a movie. Today is a different day however. Phil and I, both feeling a bit stir-crazy, have this unusual desire to get dressed up and go out for a night on the town. So, considering the fact that it is Valentine's Day (a holiday we would normally never celebrate), we thought it a great excuse to make reservations at one of our favorite Western restaurants. I can already taste the bread and olive oil, the wine, and ooh the mango souffle!

Since I already know what I'm going to eat, I should probably figure out what I am going to wear...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Perhaps I should unpack one of these days...

Life is back in full swing here in Shanghai. I am a bit exhausted, but loving it nonetheless. I started my first week of full-time Mandarin classes and I couldn't be more thrilled. I love it. It's a bit challenging this week because I have had a crazy schedule in combination with jet lag and a no carb diet. I think my teacher wonders if I have a brain at all. I am beginning to wonder the same.

I just returned from a meeting in the center of the city. The weather is amazing and gorgeous! Considering I left the land of frozen tundra a mere five days ago, the 70 degrees we are experiencing here seems all the more miraculous.

Days like today make me want to grab my camera and go wander the streets. I should probably unpack my bags from our home trip before I go and do that though....

Off to do some unpacking.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Back Home

We're back from the US. I enjoyed my trip home. I loved seeing family and friends and spending time with the people we love.

I am really happy to be back in Shanghai though. After 2.5 weeks and 7 different beds, my body and mind needed my bed, my home, and my routines. I wouldn't describe myself as a creature of habit, but living the life of an expatriate and traveling as much as we are blessed to; has certainly brought out more of my "routine prone" side.

Phil and I flew into Shanghai on Sunday afternoon and went right into the swing of things on Monday morning. Phil went into work and has an insanely full schedule. I am starting my full time Mandarin lessons this afternoon (poor teacher gets my jet-lagged brain for a few more days :). It's as if time didn't stop- we just slotted right back into the insanity of our lives here... And I love it!

-Phil and Jen